Candace Payne, the woman behind the Chewbacca mask viral Facebook video that garnered nearly 140 million views in just a few days, continues to use her platform to share her Christian faith.
Payne, a worship leader at a church southwest of Dallas who frequently posts videos of herself singing worship songs online, found overnight fame after sharing a video to Facebook on Thursday, May 19.
In the video, Payne is seen laughing infectiously out as she puts on a newly purchased Chewbacca mask that she refers to as her birthday gift for herself that she bought from Kohl's retail store.
Since then, she has done interviews with Facebook and Buzzfeed, appeared on "Good Morning America," done a carpool with talk show host James Corden, and garnered praise from "Star Wars" producer JJ Abrams and Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew. In every public appearance, Payne is quick to point to her Christian faith as the source of her joy and laughter.
"I have unashamedly said from day one that I'm a follower of Jesus Christ," she recently told Buzzfeed when asked about her obvious joy. "And I think sometimes we have painted a broad paintbrush on Christians to think that we're very narrow-minded, that we're bigoted, and that we're haters. But that's really not who we are, and I kind of apologize for anybody that's kind of painted us that way. But the truth is, my relationship with Jesus Christ has completely made me who I am, because He's told me who I am."
She added, "Once you know that you're a follower of God, and not just a god, but the God that created everything, your whole life changes. You don't have to impress anybody else because you got the one opinion that matters."
To achieve that joy, it's important to take some time aside to spend in the Word and in prayer: "I tell you what, the things that I take time for and separate away from the chaos of life for, those things are important enough for me that they center me. They ground me, so that when the moment comes to actually enjoy something, you can enjoy it for real," Payne explained.
"I just think that people forget that who you are on the inside from your hurts and your junk and aside from being told you were somebody else, like when you really know who you are, you don't have to impress anybody. Not even yourself - you can laugh at yourself, and it's okay. It really is. And it ends up being a kind of good thing," she told Buzzfeed.
Earlier, the wife and mother-of-two revealed that several years ago, she encountered the Holy Spirit during a worship service and received the gift of tongues.
"We started singing these lyrics: 'Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by Your presence Lord,'" Payne says in a video.
"And as we sang that, I've just got to tell you I felt a deep conviction in my soul that I was not a welcoming place for the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, I was quenching the Spirit of God, which I really really loved. So I just started to say to Him, 'God, I'm just so sorry. I'm so sorry...have your way with me."
And while she was praying, she realized the words coming out of her mouth were completely different from the words in her head.
"I was speaking in tongues, and I was completely freaked out," she recalled. The next day, she spoke in tongues again, and asked God to translate for her. During this time, God opened her heart to live fully and joyfully for Him.
"What He began to reveal is an issue I've carried around with me for 20+ years, that is very personal and affects my marriage and relationships with others...and ultimately affected my trust with Him.," she said. "But He didn't stop there...He said, 'Alright, I'm going to intercede for you, right here, right now, break chains, and you're going to have passion in your life once again, in every single aspect.'"
During an interview with News8, Payne revealed she will continue to use her platform to share the Good News of Jesus Christ as her joy continues to encourage those around her.
"They want that story of an average person feeling like you've been given the world, and that's what I feel like," she said. "I feel like I've been given the world, and the sky is the limit."